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Too tired to sleep

Too tired to sleep

 “Good morning! How’d you sleep?” That’s a phrase many of us hear from time to time.

If you stop to think about it, we humans spend an extraordinary amount of time in life dedicated to sleep. Perhaps second only to working hours (or these days, to screen time), sleep looms large in our daily lives.

What’s so important about sleep? A National Sleep Foundation poll found that, “among U.S. adults with excellent sleep health, nearly 90 percent say they feel very effective at getting things done each day, compared to only 46 percent of those with poor sleep health.”

In biblical terms, we see that sleep is a blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127:1-2 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.”

Yet I know many people who walk around feeling systematically sleep-deprived. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps your job is at odd hours, making good sleep hard to come by. Perhaps you have a full house of kids or people you are taking care of that make sleep difficult. It could even be feelings of guilt or worry are robbing you of sleep. You may even have a sleep disorder or medical condition.

What can we do when we have trouble sleeping? Though I’m no expert, here are few ideas:

  1. Put away technology. The “blue glowing light” of screens beckons us away from many important things, including sleep. I heard someone advise to put our phones and screens to bed one hour before you go to bed, which can only help.
  2. Read a book. Before you pop a sleeping pill, go the old-fashioned way of reading a book before bed. As a Christian, we believe we must prioritize reading God’s Word each day. But don’t be afraid also to read some light fiction, or just a book you enjoy, before lights out.
  3. Get into a routine. I know someone who is a self-described “night owl.” This person ends up staying up late and sleeping in late, and seems always to walk around tired. The explorers Lewis and Clark said that one hour of sleep before midnight is worth more toward restfulness than several hours after midnight. Re-evaluate your schedule, if you are sleep deprived.
  4. Pray. Christian writers have long upheld the idea of morning and evening prayers. There is something significant about beginning each day in prayer to God, and ending each day before God. We don’t pray to Him so that we can sleep. We pray and “He gives to His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

These are just a few ideas, none of which require medication, which I have found helpful, to go with whatever ideas you may have.

All this being said, there can be days when suggestions like these just don’t work. You go to bed and just stay wide awake. And that’s okay. Whether in plenty of sleep or little, may God show each of us how to put Him first and how to give thanks in all things.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Prepping for the Empty Nest

Prepping for the Empty Nest

No matter how you feel about your kids and/or your spouse, the empty nest takes a little more getting used to than you might think. Without forethought and planning, the life stage you have been told is wonderful could become extremely stressful instead, as you will continue to parent in all the challenging ways, like giving money and advice and solving unforeseen problems, while no longer enjoying the perks of parenting, like face time, casual conversation, and daily affection.

This being true, Todd and I led a breakout at the annual marriage retreat put on by Oklahoma Baptists last week and shared some tips with couples who are quickly approaching this life stage.

Here they are:

Anticipate. Looking forward to something is almost as much fun as living it and often improves the actual experience when it comes. Just as you looked forward to marrying your spouse, daydreamed about what life with them would be like, and groomed yourself for the experience, do so for the empty nest. Yes, there will be sadness in the goodbyes to your children, but anticipating joy on the other side of those goodbyes will soften that hurt, making the transition easier for the two of you and your children. It doesn’t help homesick children to know that their parents aren’t happy without them.

Plan. The first day. The first week. The first month. The first year and beyond. Big things. Small things. As you anticipate the empty nest, fill your imagination and your calendar with new things that will help you celebrate your freedom as a couple. Fill any potentially awkward or melancholy spaces with happy details tailored just for the two of you: food you didn’t eat when the kids were home, shows you didn’t watch, places you didn’t go, fellowship with people you weren’t free to visit, staying out late on a school night. If college doesn’t have you pinching pennies, you could plan a trip, but camping out in the living room in pj’s the kids never got to see can be just as much, if not more, fun!

Prioritize your spouse. The older your kids get, the crazier their schedules become, requiring the whole family to flex and sacrifice at times. If we aren’t careful, we can get in the habit of expecting our spouse to give instead of asking, assigning their needs a backseat to our kids’. Stop, take stock, and make sure you haven’t done this.Remember, you married your spouse to become one with them. Together, you welcomed your children into the family you had already formed, but their presence shouldn’t alter the balance of what existed before they arrived.

If you’ve gotten out of the habit, get into the habit of considering your spouse’s needs before your children’s, asking them to flex and sacrifice when necessary instead of expecting, giving them a voice in all family planning even if it’s logistically inconvenient to include them, and voicing the importance of your spouse’s identity as an equal member with you of the family core to your children, so they will grow up with a healthy understanding of God’s design for marriage and family. It’s not a bad thing to ask the kids to flex for Mom or Dad either. Asking your spouse to flex and sacrifice won’t mean much if the person being asked can’t say “no.”

Set or reestablish boundaries for your children. Your children don’t call the shots. They live in your house with the people who own it and are in charge of them in the eyes of God and the law. They need to do what you say. If you haven’t established time, space, and property boundaries with your children, do so now. If you wait until they move out, the sudden change will make them feel pushed out instead of sent off, making the separation process more complicated and painful than it needs to be. 

As a couple, set aside space in your house that is just for the two of you unless your children ask permission to enter and require them to knock before entering. Carve out regular time that’s just for the two of you. It doesn’t hurt the kids to be sent to their room early in the evenings so you can have alone time or stay in their rooms longer on weekend mornings so the two of you can have a date at home. Require your children to check with you before making any plans that will require you to alter yours and require their friends to call before coming over to make sure it’s okay. Require your kids to ask permission to use anything that isn’t theirs or doesn’t clearly belong to the entire family. 

Once the kids leave, set rules for coming home, like calling first and letting you know by midweek whether or not they plan to come home for the weekend so you can anticipate and plan couple time, even if your plans are to have no plans—which is its own kind of wonderful after years of living on the go—and don’t let them come home last minute if they said they weren’t going to.

Maintain, kindle, or rekindle romance. If the fire is burning, keep it stoked. If it never was, find out where you can get yourself some flint and a rock—seriously, help is out there if you look for it. If it was burning, but isn’t now, do what you did before. If that doesn’t work, educate yourself.

The problem in many marriages is that kids come along before couples have a chance to fully explore and enjoy each other as people, friends, and lovers. Wherever they happen to be at the time is where they freeze, thinking, saying, and doing things that may or may not have worked once, but definitely don’t hold up over time. Fire needs fuel to burn, and romance needs continued intentional investment from both partners to flourish.

If you don’t know it already, find out your spouse’s love language and speak it. Flirt, focus, and learn how to loosen up and have fun with your forever date. Consider your bedroom a playground and enjoy recess to the full. God wants you to (Song of Solomon 5:1)!

Bottom line, your empty nest is going to be whatever you put in the time and effort to make it.  Get to feathering now, and you’ll enjoy one of the most gratifying rewards you’ve ever earned. 

How To Handle Criticism

How To Handle Criticism

No one likes to be criticized.

We spend a great deal of time and effort covering our faults. We hope the world around us sees and experiences the best version of ourselves at every turn. We don’t want to make mistakes.

At the same time, we know we are broken creatures. For every fault we conceal, another rises to the surface. We find ourselves exposing the worst versions of ourselves – often to those we love the most. Our words can hit targets at which we never aimed. Maybe a tone is perceived wrong. Perhaps we brought up an issue in innocence that is tender to another. Maybe we forgot.

Despite our best efforts, we do make mistakes.

We live in a social economy in which criticism is a currency. Social media allows us to fire shots across bows we likely would never approach in person. Anonymous jesters fire criticism and critique without provocation. Beating someone else to the punch is considered of higher virtue than taking the time to ensure the punch is well-placed or even necessary.

Not all criticism is beneficial. Not all critics are right. At the same time, as sinful social people, we do need correction from others. Warranted or unwarranted, each of us will face critics and criticism. So how should we handle them?

1. Listen to your critic

If you immediately shut down a critic, you are assuming you have no blind spots or areas of improvement. Criticism is not always bad. In fact, many proverbs speak favorably of criticism from those who care for us. Listening reflectively to criticism allows an offended party to be heard and offers us the opportunity to open a door of self-examination, perhaps previously unconsidered. Don’t shut the door on every critic. There are some you need to invite in.

2. Appreciate your critic

Usually, someone seeking to bring an issue to our attention does so with a good motive. They may not handle it well or express it in a way that prevents a sting. Looking beyond the words of a critic, however, allows us to see the heart behind the criticism. We want to be and do what is best. A critic likely wants that for us as well. Seek to appreciate the heart behind someone’s criticism, even if you don’t appreciate the content.

3. Evaluate the criticism

Even if a critic does have an uncharitable disposition toward you, they may not be wrong in their criticism. Recognize that we all have blind spots, and however poorly a person may have handled a critique, ask yourself and someone else you trust whether or not there is something valuable in a criticism for you to address. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You may dismiss a critic, but don’t completely discount their perspective. 

4. Apply the criticism

Criticisms can have many applications. They may serve to show us a sin of which we need to repent. They may help open our eyes to another’s perspective. They may simply reveal a fault of the critic themselves. Either way, receiving criticism never ends in merely hearing it. One must ask what there is to gain from receiving criticism.

Some critics just want to hurt others. They are jerks.

Some critics want our good, but don’t handle it well. They are trying.

Some critics we welcome, knowing they have our best at heart and have been given access to our lives as those with a valuable perspective. They are friends.

Criticism can sting. Our gut reaction is often to label any critic as a jerk when they may genuinely be trying to be a friend. Don’t be quick to dismiss criticism. Prayerfully listen, appreciate, evaluate and apply what others afford us from their perspective. It just may do us some good.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” – Proverbs 27:6

For Moms Who Muster, an Encouraging Word

For Moms Who Muster, an Encouraging Word

Twenty-four years of mustering. 

Maybe more. 

Twenty-four years of working hard to craft perfect holiday memories, not for myself, but for my family and others, and I’ve enjoyed far less of it than I care to admit. 

Why?  Because no matter how hard I tried or how carefully I planned, something always went wrong. 

The one-year-old hated organic icing just as much as mom and dad do and wouldn’t touch his birthday cake for pictures. 

The eighteen-month-old had a diaper blow out that ruined her dress on the way to church Easter morning.

Someone got the stomach bug on Christmas Eve. 

The tooth fairy put so much energy into the cute note that she forgot the cash… again.

The best friend couldn’t make it to the birthday party. 

The new sauce pan heated more quickly than the old one, so everyone smelled like scorched corn on Thanksgiving. 

A relative who shall remain nameless thought it would be a great idea to give a taxidermied puppy as a Christmas gift to the child who had been wanting a real one for years. 

You can’t possibly know, control, and/or remember everything and everyone.  Did you know that?  Well, it took me a long time to learn.

The unplanned, unscripted moments, though, now those are another story altogether.  The moments I never expected to be filled with wonderful?  Those have been the absolute best. 

Truth be told, if the images I replay in my head when I’m feeling nostalgic were to be downloaded into a scrapbook for everyone to see, you’d find very few party hats or holiday decorations.

Instead, you’d see my infant daughter sound asleep on my husband’s chest for the hundredth night in a row.   

You’d see my three-year-old son asking Jesus into his heart all by himself, smackdab in the middle of his Hot Wheels, because “you don’t need mommies for that, just God.”

You’d see my kindergarten daughter lagging behind on our walk home from school, her expectant eyes heavenward because “Jesus could come back any minute.”

You’d see the kids playing Legos and Barbies in the hall instead of their rooms just so they could be near each other. 

You’d see my family gathered around our daughter’s bed in the evenings for Junie B. Jones and prayers. 

*Happy sigh*

Listen, friends, holidays and special events are good.  They serve a function and have their place, to be sure, but it’s up to us to make sure they stay in their place and don’t distract us from what’s really important. 

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21).

Life is not a party.  For the Christian, it’s a mission trip, and we don’t get to set the itinerary.  If we fixate on the photo ops, we might miss out on what’s truly meaningful.

This holiday season, why don’t we all put expectation aside and leave the mustering up to God so we can appreciate and participate in the wonderful He has planned? 

Let’s face it: Nothing was going to go exactly the way we envisioned it anyway. 

Why Now May Be The Best Time to Quit TV

Why Now May Be The Best Time to Quit TV

It’s happening.

If you’ve been following the landscape of television over the past few years, you’ve noticed the cresting wave of services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime leaving traditional cable television powerhouses clamoring in the shadows.

Of course, as the digital revolution has taken place, it has seen the deconstruction of many media types (I’ll forever miss you Compact Discs) and has created new formidable foes for media outlets previously considered to be untouchable mainstays. It’s showbiz Marxism.

Like any teenager will tell you, however, the adjustment from sprouting youth to king of the mountain is an awkward transition and has its unfortunate bumps along the road. When our consumption habits change, there is often a fair amount of entertainment indigestion.

Many believed the most significant adjustment for our society was in cutting the cord and letting cable fall into the abyss through the echoes of standard definition TV and headphone jacks. Consumers (as I’m sure they told you…multiple times) gave up on traditional cable packages and opted for single services like Sling, YouTubeTV, Hulu, Roku and others to satisfy their immediate viewing desires.

Of course, where the money flows the company goes. Sensing this lemming stampede, major networks have begun launching their own places for digital premium content. No longer can one simply tune in to the game on ESPN. You now need to buy ESPN+. Want to see the newest NBC show? You’ll have to fork over the cash for Peacock, the NBC Universal streaming service.

All of this is in response to companies like Apple and Disney seeking to consolidate content and place it behind protective barriers from the everyday consumer. It’s an all-out cash grab, and fortresses are being hastily constructed. Each one is accessible, of course, for an additional $4.99 per month.

If this sounds confusing to you, then you are in the right boat. Not only is this a frustrating time for the average Joe, but it’s a time when more is being asked from the consumer and less is available for the price.

So what is one to do in this shifting climate? Quit.

Now may be the best time for you to quit TV. If that sounds impossible, at least consider this a time to drastically reduce the hold entertainment has in your life. According to a recent Neilson report, the average American watches more than 34 hours of television each week (including movies and other video-related screen time). That is almost a day and a half per week. What could you do with an additional day and a half at your disposal?

In a recent article for, writer Craig Dewe observes several concerns directly related to time spent in front of TV shows.

Dewe observes not only the rampant negativity displayed in everything from reality TV to network news but notes, “In comedies, we laugh at the stupid/overweight/socially awkward/racial stereotype/different people. The news is filled with stories of pain/suffering/disaster/death and arguing. Drama has to be about problems in order to create the drama. All of this is affecting your outlook on life and the way you see the world.”

Alongside the fact that TV creates unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy, Dewe notes the basic effects of sitting immobile for hours and losing grip on the battle for self-discipline can harm our bodies physically, our minds emotionally and our spirits spiritually.

If you have ever considered pulling back on entertainment programming, there has never been a better time than now. As the networks are shifting from their global Pangea and every commercial is a carrot for another $4.99 per month to hand out, consider sitting this one out.

If you are someone who benefits from certain TV shows, consider time away as a sabbath or a summer hiatus. Pull the plug and wait until the hierarchy is re-established and content can flow to the consumer in ways that benefit not just your mind, but your wallet as well.

Quit TV and see what happens. Go outside. See a human. Read a book. Make an informed decision of your choosing. You may find that real life can offer all the entertainment you need.

Leave the drama to the networks.

When the Kids Aren’t Happy: 10 Truths to Remember

When the Kids Aren’t Happy: 10 Truths to Remember


From a deep sleep, I sit up straight and grab my phone.

It’s early.  Too early.  Something must be wrong. 

Turns out, it isn’t.  Not really. 

A bleary-eyed text scan reveals everyone is safe and healthy.  No one is stranded, threatened, scared. 

Still, my heart beats hard, each thump sending waves of ache and longing down my arms and into my fingertips. 

Someone is unhappy.  Deeply unhappy.

Too far away to offer even a hug, I can’t fix it, and the focus I worked so hard to cultivate as I head into another full day of creative work is gone. 


This happened a long time ago, but I’m telling you, friends, sometimes I feel like I’m living three lives at once!  When it gets to be too much, I try to remind myself of the following truths. 

Happiness is relative.  Happiness is an emotional response to stimuli.  We may not be able to change those stimuli, but we can adjust our focus, perspective, and expectation.

Happiness isn’t the baseline.   Happiness falls on the positive side of the sliding emotional scale.  It is not the norm.  We must be grateful for the upswings.

Happiness doesn’t last.  Human emotion, good or bad, cannot be maintained forever.  Sooner or later, we all return to baseline, if only for a little while.

Happiness isn’t the end goal.  Christ-likeness is.  If God put Jesus through trials to shape Him (Heb. 2:10), we should expect Him to do the same with us.

Happiness can actually interfere with God’s plan.  Happiness breeds complacency.  We don’t tend to tinker with things we don’t perceive to be broken.  If God wants us to change trajectory, He often applies a little pressure or removes an element of comfort.   

Unhappiness pushes believers to Jesus.  Only the hurt need healing, and those who know Jesus know He is the cure.  If they don’t go to Him first with their pain, they will once they discover nothing else satisfies as deeply or for as long.

Unhappiness breeds compassion.  We can’t effectively minister to those with whom we can’t identify.  If we hope to help the hurting, we must experience some level of hurt ourselves.  

You can’t fully appreciate happiness until you experience unhappiness.  

Those who never know unhappiness never cultivate joy.  Happiness ebbs and flows because it relies on factors in constant flux.  Joy remains because it depends on Jesus, Who does not change (Heb. 13:8).  If we never find ourselves tossed about by emotion, we may never reach for the rock of our salvation or learn to abide in His provision.

If the Enemy is responsible for my children’s unhappiness, I could be the target.  If I allow myself to be crippled by the Enemy’s attacks, doesn’t it stand to reason he’ll keep his aim on my children steady?  Also, parenting is only one of the jobs God has given me.  No matter my kids’ interpretation of or response to their own circumstances, I have a calling of my own and a life of obedience to live (Eph. 4:1).

The truth is, no matter how hard I try to retrain it, my heart will always beat for three people.  It helps to know, however, that the weight of responsibility for my children’s happiness is not mine to bear. 

It’s theirs. 

And God’s.

That’s great news, not only because a momma’s hugs and kisses only go so far, but because the Father alone knows what’s best both for my kids and the Kingdom.  Speaking of which, Heaven—with its dried up tears and all (Rev. 21:4)—is looking better all the time, don’t you think?